Convenient packaging, healthier profiles drive soup sales

Boosted by convenience and more healthy options, sales of soup have been strong at drug stores. Sales of ready-to-serve wet soup were up over 10 percent for the 52 weeks ended Aug. 12, 2007, according to Information Resources Inc. Sales of condensed wet soups surged ahead nearly 6 percent during the same time period.

Consumers’ desire for more healthful food options is responsible, in part, for the boost in sales. Soup is a heat-and-serve product that gives consumers a convenient way of eating a balanced meal. It’s also an easy way for consumers to get an additional serving of vegetables into their diets.

Much of the growth has been due to introductions with a more healthful profile. A report on the category by Mintel International Group points out that while canned soups have traditionally had high sodium content, new low-sodium products have addressed the issue with reduced-sodium options.

In addition to low-sodium and low-carb products introduced, organic and natural products also have been taking more space on store shelves. The success of Wolfgang Puck’s soup line in 1999 and his brand’s expansion into organic products has opened the door to higher-priced, higher-value soups—a trend that mainstream brands have noticed. Campbells, for example, is highlighting the natural sea salt in its low-sodium Healthy Request Soups in its new campaign for that brand.

In fact, research conducted by Campbell’s revealed that 65 percent of respondents said lower-sodium soups brought them back to buying the Campbell’s brand.

General Mills’ Progresso, the other power brand in the category, has been active in the low-sodium segment, as well. The company launched Progresso Reduced Sodium Soups last year and continues to add line extensions to the successful brand. Two of the newest flavors added to the brand’s lineup are chicken & wild rice and Italian-style wedding.

SOUP: A category for consumers looking for lunch on the run

29 percent of respondents eat lunch at their desk

15 percent of respondents eat lunch in their car*

*Mintel International Group Limited’s “What’s For Lunch” survey

Progresso also recently teamed up with Weight Watchers to launch Progresso Light, a canned soup with a Weight Watchers’ Points value of zero. The soups, which contain 60 calories and 4 grams of fiber, deliver a full serving of vegetables. The new products are being touted as “a whole new option in ready-to-serve soup” because they are the first to gain the trusted Weight Watchers endorsement on the front label.

Healthfulness is only part of soups’ appeal. Convenience also is a key factor. “Soups are really convenient and can be eaten for lunch, a snack or for dinner. So they have multiple uses and are very versatile,” said June Jo, an analyst for The Hartman Group.

Microwavable containers and one-cup portable portions are giving the category an even faster, more convenient profile. A recent study from Mintel reported that before shippable soup and single servings in microwavable bowls, soup was not a realistic option for people eating on the go. These new options make soup easier to handle and widen the category’s appeal for consumers. “Anything manufacturers can do to make soup simpler and faster to prepare will help drive sales,” Mintel’s report stated.

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